Fr Peter Stevens died peacefully on the evening of 8th November at St Anne's Home, Stoke Newington, where he had been living in retirement.
Fr Peter’s mortal remains will be brought to the Chapel at St Anne’s at 5pm on Monday 2nd December.
The Funeral Mass will be at St Anne’s Home, 77 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, N16 5BL on Tuesday 3rd December at 11am. Bishop John Sherrington will preside, and concelebrating priests are welcome with their alb and purple Mass vestments. They are asked to St Anne’s of their intention to concelebrate. Burial at St Mary’s Cemetery, Harrow Road will follow the Funeral Mass.
Sympathy is extended to Fr Peter’s family and friends, and to the Sisters and Residents at St Anne’s.
May the angels lead him into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome him
and take him to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.
‘Let nothing disturb you, nothing affright you; everything passes; God never changes, patience wins all. He who has God needs nothing more, God alone suffices.’ These words from St Teresa, on a laminated card, were carried in the pocket of Fr Peter for many years of his life. On the reverse of the card Fr Peter had written ‘I am a Catholic Priest – in case of emergency call my Bishop’. Fr Peter, ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Westminster by Cardinal Basil Hume on 1st July 1989 at the age of 57, was always close to the Church and had deep respect for the Church’s teachings and practices and a love of the papacy expressed, in part, by annual letters written before he began seminary formation to the Holy Father to wish him a happy Christmas. Letters received in response, from the Secretariat of the Vatican State, every year from 1979-84 were among Fr Peter’s treasured papers, as were letters written by family members over many years.
Born in London on 23rd October 1931, Peter Stevens was the second son born to Emma and Alfred Stevens. His sister, Angela, was born in 1939. Peter’s family life was marred by the death of his older brother, Bernard, at the age of 20 from an incurable illness and then the separation of his parents. He and Angela became very close, ‘a wonderful and beautiful person, so thoughtful, generous, kind and loving…my dearest friend for almost forty-six years’ is how he described her. Peter and Angela bought and shared a home with three acres of land in Suffolk for many years, until her death on Christmas day, 1984. While living in Suffolk Peter owned and bred Great Danes. He and Angela became founder members of the East of England Great Dane Club. Peter progressed from Chairman, and Editor of the club newsletter ‘Danedata’, to club President. However, he found Suffolk somewhat remote and planned to move to Hertfordshire to be closer to London. The plan to move was thwarted by the onset of Angela’s terminal illness. Peter was then able to write ‘I now believe my energies should be used to the service and glory of Almighty God and for his Church,’ and Peter applied to the diocese for acceptance as a student for the priesthood.
Peter’s desire to be a priest had surfaced earlier in his life, perhaps due to the influence of his uncle, Fr Harold Carter, formerly a police officer who became a priest of the diocese and a chaplain at Westminster Cathedral at the time of Peter’s birth, hence Peter’s baptism at the cathedral at the age of three weeks. Peter was educated at the Salvatorian College, Wealdstone. For the Stevens family Sundays were always the most important day of the week, when they attended the 6am or 7am Mass and returned for High Mass at midday. After lunch the family again went to the church for Rosary and Benediction. Peter and Bernard were altar servers on Sundays and at early weekday Masses. He loved involvement with the Church. At the age of 14 Peter left school and was apprenticed to a firm of tailors in Savile Row, making military uniforms. The hours were long, 8am to 6pm, and the pay small but with a bonus for good conduct. Peter was proud to have been involved with the making of the full dress uniform for King George VI. In 1949, when 18 years of age, Peter made known his interest in the priesthood and his vocation. Following the recommendation of his Parish Priest, and an interview with Cardinal Griffin, Peter went to Campion House, Osterley to begin formation for priesthood. He was very happy at Osterley, but the death of his brother in 1950 soon after discharge from the RAF meant family responsibilities fell to Peter and it was agreed that he would leave Osterley with the intention of returning the following year. Against the backdrop of family break up and economic hardship Peter was called up for National Service and he joined the RAF. He used whatever money was paid to him to assist his mother and sister. Peter was posted to Egypt where he remained for two years. It was during this time that his parents were reconciled, but circumstances prevented Peter from returning to Osterley. He embarked on a career as a sales representative, including a period with Hayes and Finch, manufacturers and suppliers of candles, furnishings and other church requisites. He enjoyed this chapter of his life, travelling to churches and convents and meeting priests and Religious in London and the south of England. But all was not well between his parents and his father left home, for the second time, leaving debts that Peter had to meet. Peter was made redundant, yet another bitter blow, but he secured employment with another company. He went on to become a sales manager with a London-based engineering company. In 1966 his mother died, aged 63. On her deathbed she asked Peter to promise to care for his sister, a commitment he gave willingly and gladly; he never told his sister of this promise. When Angela died in 1984 Peter was free to offer himself for a second time for service as a priest. Cardinal Hume’s message concerning vocations was ‘God calls at any age’, and he accepted Peter and sent him to the Beda College in Rome where Peter studied from 1985 to 1989.
Fr Peter’s first appointment was to St Scholastica’s, Clapton where he served as Assistant Priest from 1989-91. He was then appointed to Holy Trinity, Brook Green until 1994 when he was appointed Parish Priest at St John Fisher, Chorleywood until 2006 when, aged 75, he retired and went to live in a flat in Ruislip. In 2012 he moved to St Anne’s Home, Stoke Newington. On 1st July 2014, now using an electric wheelchair, Fr Peter celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his ordination, with Mass and a party at St Anne’s. He spoke of his vocation, and Cardinal Hume’s words to him in 1989, ‘If you can give ten years as a priest I will be very consoled.’ Fr Peter was a priest for 30 years. He was steadfast and dutiful, reliable and dependable, compassionate and merciful. When visiting sick people in their homes, and bringing them Holy Communion, and when comforting the bereaved, Fr Peter’s pastoral sensitivity shone, and warmth radiated through his steadiness. Fr Peter was deeply conscious of doing God’s work. The God whom he knew, loved and served will, we pray, grant Fr Peter eternal rest. May he rest in peace.